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He replaced the
panel, along with a single hexhead to hold it in place. The
black package had drifted aft before he'd finished. He thumbed
open the vacuum valves on the workbelt's gray pads and freed
himself, retrieving the thing he'd removed.
He kicked back, gliding over his instruments--a green
docking diagram pulsed on his central screen--and snagged
the frame of Case's g-web. He pulled himself down and picked
at the tape of his package with a thick, chipped thumbnail.
"Some man in China say th' truth comes out this," he said,
unwrapping an ancient, oilslick ъemington automatic shotgun,
its barrel chopped off a few millimeters in front of the battered
forestock. The shoulderstock had been removed entirely, re-
placed with a wooden pistolgrip wound with dull black tape.
He smelled of sweat and ganja.
"That the only one you got?"
"Sure, mon," he said, wiping oil from the black barrel with
a red cloth, the black poly wrapping bunched around the pis-
tolgrip in his other hand, "I an' I th' ъastafarian navy, believe
Case pulled the trodes down across his forehead. He'd never
bothered to put the Texas catheter back on; at least he could
take a real piss in the Villa Straylight, even if it was his last.
He jacked in.
x x x
"Hey," the construct said, "ol' Peter's totally apeshit, huh?"
They seemed to be part of the Tessier-Ashpool ice now; the
emerald arches had widened, grown together, become a solid
mass. Green predominated in the planes of the Chinese program
that surrounded them. "Gettin' close, Dixie?"
"ъeal close. Need you soon."
"Listen, Dix. Wintermute says Kuang's set itself up solid
in our Hosaka. I'm going to have to jack you and my deck out
of the Circuit, haul you into Straylight, and plug you back in,
into the custodial program there, Wintermute says. Says the
Kuang virus will be all through there. Then we run from inside
through the Straylight net."
"Wonderful," the Flatline said, "I never did like to do any-
thing simple when I could do it ass-backwards."
Into her darkness, a churning synaesthesia, where her pain
was the taste of old iron, scent of melon, wings of a moth
brushing her cheek. She was unconscious, and he was barred
from her dreams. When the optic chip flared, the alphanumerics
were haloed, each one ringed with a faint pink aura.
"I'm very unhappy with this, Peter." 3Jane's voice seemed
to arrive from a hollow distance. Molly could hear, he realized,
then corrected himself. The simstim unit was intact and still
in place; he could feel it digging against her ribs. Her ears
registered the vibrations of the girl's voice. ъiviera said some-
thing brief and indistinct. "But I don't," she said, "and it isn't
fun. Hideo will bring a medical unit down from intensive care,
but this needs a surgeon."
There was a silence. Very distinctly, Case heard the water
lap against the side of the pool.
"What was that you were telling her, when I came back?"
ъiviera was very close now.
"About my mother. She asked me to. I think she was in
shock, aside from Hideo's injection. Why did you do that to
"I wanted to see if they would break."
"One did. When she comes around--if she comes around--
we'll see what color her eyes are."
"She's extremely dangerous. Too dangerous. If I hadn't
been here to distract her, to throw up Ashpool to distract her
and my own Hideo to draw her little bomb, where would you
be? In her power."
"No," 3Jane said, "there was Hideo. I don't think you quite
understand about Hideo. She does, evidently."
"Like a drink?"
"Wine. The white."
Case jacked out.
Maelcum was hunched over Garvey's controls, tapping out
commands for a docking sequence. The module's central screen
displayed a fixed red square that represented the Straylight
dock. Garvey was a larger square, green, that shrank slowly,
wavering from side to side with Maelcum's commands. To the
left, a smaller screen displayed a skeletal graphic of Garvey
and Haniwa as they approached the curvature of the spindle.
"We got an hour, man," Case said, pulling the ribbon of
fiberoptics from the Hosaka. His deck's back-up batteries were
good for ninety minutes, but the Flatline's construct would be
an additional drain. He worked quickly, mechanically, fasten-
ing the construct to the bottom of the Ono-Sendai with micro-
pore tape. Maelcum's workbelt drifted past. He snagged it,
unclipped the two lengths of shock cord, with their gray rec-
tangular suction pads, and hooked the jaws of one clip through
the other. He held the pads against the sides of his deck and
worked the thumb lever that created suction. With the deck,
construct, and improvised shoulder strap suspended in front of
him, he struggled into his leather jacket, checking the contents
of his pockets. The passport Armitage had given him, the bank
chip in the same name, the credit chip he'd been issued when
he'd entered Freeside, two derms of the betaphenethylamine
he'd bought from Bruce, a roll of New Yen, half a pack of
Yeheyuans, and the shuriken. He tossed the Freeside chip over
his shoulders, heard it click off the ъussian scrubber. He was
about to do the same with the steel star, but the rebounding
credit chip clipped the back of his skull, spun off, struck the
ceiling, and tumbled past Maelcum's left shoulder. The Zionite
interrupted his piloting to glare back at him. Case looked at
the shuriken, then tucked it into his jacket pocket, hearing the
"You missin' th' Mute, mon," Maelcum said. "Mute say
he messin' th' security for Garvey. Garvey dockin' as 'nother
boat, boat they 'spectin' out of Babylon. Mute broadcastin'
codes for us."
"We gonna wear the suits?"
"Too heavy." Maelcum shrugged. "Stay in web 'til I tell
you." He tapped a final sequence into the module and grabbed
the worn pink handholds on either side of the navigation board.
Case saw the green square shrink a final few millimeters to
overlap the red square. On the smaller screen, Haniwa lowered
her bow to miss the curve of the spindle and was snared. Garvey
was still slung beneath her like a captive grub. The tug rang,
shuddered. Two stylized arms sprang out to grip the slender
wasp shape. Straylight extruded a tentative yellow rectangle
that curved, groping past Haniwa for Garvey.
There was a scraping sound from the bow, beyond the trem-
bling fronds of caulk.
"Mon," Maelcum said, "mind we got gravity." A dozen
small objects struck the floor of the cabin simultaneously, as
though drawn there by a magnet. Case gasped as his internal
organs were pulled into a different configuration. The deck and
construct had fallen painfully to his lap.
They were attached to the spindle now, rotating with it.
Maelcum spread his arms, flexed tension from his shoulders,
and removed his purple dreadbag, shaking out his locks. "Come
now, mon, if you seh time be mos' precious."
The Villa Straylight was a parasitic structure, Case reminded
himself, as he stepped past the tendrils of caulk and through
Marcus Garvey's forward hatch. Straylight bled air and water
out of Freeside, and had no ecosystem of its own.
The gangway tube the dock had extended was a more elab-
orate version of the one he'd tumbled through to reach Haniwa,
designed for use in the spindle's rotation gravity. A corrugated
tunnel, articulated by integral hydraulic members, each seg-
ment ringed with a loop of tough, nonslip plastic, the loops
serving as the rungs of a ladder. The gangway had snaked its
way around Haniwa; it was horizontal , where it joined Garvey' s
lock, but curved up sharply and to the left, a vertical climb
around the curvature of the yacht's hull. Maelcum was already
making his way up the rings, pulling himself up with his left
hand, the ъemington in his right. He wore a stained pair of
baggy fatigues, his sleeveless green nylon jacket, and a pair
of ragged canvas sneakers with bright red soles. The gangway
shifted slightly, each time he climbed to another ring.
The clips on Case's makeshift strap dug into his shoulder
with the weight of the Ono-Sendai and the Flatline's construct.
All he felt now was fear, a generalized dread. He pushed it
away, forcing himself to replay Armitage's lecture on the spin-
dle and Villa Straylight. He started climbing. Freeside's eco-
system was limited, not closed. Zion was a closed system,
capable of cycling for years without the introduction of external
materials. Freeside produced its own air and water, but relied
on constant shipments of food, on the regular augmentation
of soil nutrients. The Villa Straylight produced nothing at all.
"Mon," Maelcum said quietly, "get up here, 'side me." Case
edged sideways on the circular ladder and climbed the last few
rungs. The gangway ended in a smooth, slightly convex hatch,
two meters in diameter. The hydraulic members of the tube
vanished into flexible housings set into the frame of the hatch.
"So what do we--"
Case's mouth shut as the hatch swung up, a slight differential
in pressure puffing fine grit into his eyes.
Maelcum scrambled up, over the edge, and Case heard the
tiny click of the ъemington's safety being released. "You th'
mon in th' hurry...." Maelcum whispered, crouching there.
Then Case was beside him.
The hatch was centered in a round, vaulted chamber floored
with blue nonslip plastic tiles. Maelcum nudged him, pointed,
and he saw a monitor set into a curved wall. On the screen, a
tall young man with the Tessier-Ashpool features was brushing
something from the sleeves of his dark suitcoat. He stood beside
an identical hatch, in an identical chamber. "Very sorry, sir,"
said a voice from a grid centered above the hatch. Case glanced
up. "Expected you later, at the axial dock. One moment, please."
On the monitor, the young man tossed his head impatiently.
Maelcum spun as a door slid open to their left, the shotgun
ready. A small Eurasian in orange coveralls stepped through
and goggled at them. He opened his mouth, but nothing came
out. He closed his mouth. Case glanced at the monitor. Blank.
"Who?" the man managed.
"The ъastafarian navy," Case said, standing up, the cyber-
space deck banging against his hip, "and all we want's a jack
into your custodial system."
The man swallowed. "Is this a test? It's a loyalty check. It
must be a loyalty check." He wiped the palms of his hands on
the thighs of his orange suit.
"No, mon, this a real one." Maelcum came up out of his
crouch with the ъemington pointed at the Eurasian's face. "You
They followed the man back through the door, into a corridor
whose polished concrete walls and irregular floor of overlap-
ping carpets were perfectly familiar to Case. "Pretty rugs,"
Maelcum said, prodding the man in the back. "Smell like
They came to another monitor, an antique Sony, this one
mounted above a console with a keyboard and a complex array
of jack panels. The screen lit as they halted, the Finn grinning
tensely out at them from what seemed to be the front room of
Metro Holografix. "Okay," he said, "Maelcum takes this guy
down the corridor to the open locker door, sticks him in there,
I'll lock it. Case, you want the fifth socket from the left, top
panel. There's adaptor plugs in the cabinet under the console.
Needs Ono-Sendai twenty-point into Hitachi forty." As Mael-
cum nudged his captive along, Case knelt and fumbled through
an assortment of plugs, finally coming up with the one he
needed. With his deck jacked into the adaptor, he paused.
"Do you have to look like that, man?" he asked the face on
the screen. The Finn was erased a line at a time by the image
of Lonny Zone against a wall of peeling Japanese posters.
"Anything you want, baby," Zone drawled, "just hop it for
"No," Case said, "use the Finn." As the Zone image van-
ished, he shoved the Hitachi adaptor into its socket and settled
the trodes across his forehead.
"What kept you?" the Flatline asked, and laughed.
"Told you don't do that," Case said.
"Joke, boy," the construct said, "zero time lapse for me.
Lemme see what we got here...."
The Kuang program was green, exactly the shade of the
T-A ice. Even as Case watched, it grew gradually more opaque,
although he could see the black-mirrored shark thing clearly
when he looked up. The fracture lines and hallucinations were
gone now, and the thing looked real as Marcus Garvey, a
wingless antique jet, its smooth skin plated with black chrome.
"ъight on," the Flatline said.
"ъight," Case said, and flipped.
"--like that. I'm sorry," 3Jane was saying, as she bandaged
Molly's head. "Our unit says no concussion, no permanent
damage to the eye. You didn't know him very well, before
you came here?"
"Didn't know him at all," Molly said bleakly. She was on
her back on a high bed or padded table. Case couldn't feel the
injured leg. The synaesthetic effect of the original injection
seemed to have worn off. The black ball was gone, but her
hands were immobilized by soft straps she couldn't see.
"He wants to kill you."
"Figures," Molly said, staring up at the rough ceiling past
a very bright light.
"I don't think I want him to," 3Jane said, and Molly pain-
fully turned her head to look up into the dark eyes.
"Don't play with me," she said.
"But I think I might like to," 3Jane said, and bent to kiss
her forehead, brushing the hair back with a warm hand. There
were smears of blood on her pale djellaba.
"Where's he gone now?" Molly asked.
"Another injection, probably," 3Jane said, straightening up.
"He was quite impatient for your arrival. I think it might be
fun to nurse you back to health, Molly." She smiled, absently
wiping a bloody hand down the front of the robe. "Your leg
will need to be reset, but we can arrange that."
"What about Peter?"
"Peter." She gave her head a little shake. A strand of dark
hair came loose, fell across her forehead. "Peter has become
rather boring. I find drug use in general to be boring." She
giggled. "In others, at any rate. My father was a dedicated
abuser, as you must have seen."
"Don't alarm yourself." 3Jane's fingers brushed the skin
above the waistband of the leather jeans. "His suicide was the
result of my having manipulated the safety margins of his
freeze. I'd never actually met him, you know. I was decanted
after he last went down to sleep. But I did know him very well.
The cores know everything. I watched him kill my mother. I'll
show you that, when you're better. He strangles her in bed."
"Why did he kill her?" Her unbandaged eye focused on the
"He couldn't accept the direction she intended for our fam-
ily. She commissioned the construction of our artificial intel-
ligences. She was quite a visionary. She imagined us in a
symbiotic relationship with the Al's, our corporate decisions
made for us. Our conscious decisions, I should say. Tessier-
Ashpool would be immortal, a hive, each of us units of a larger
entity . Fascinating . I'll play her tapes for you, nearly a thousand
hours. But I've never understood her, really, and with her
death, her direction was lost. All direction was lost, and we
began to burrow into ourselves. Now we seldom come out.
I'm the exception there."
"You said you were trying to kill the old man? You fiddled
his cryogenic programs?"
3Jane nodded. "I had help. From a ghost. That was what I
thought when I was very young, that there were ghosts in the
corporate cores. Voices. One of them was what you call Win-
termute, which is the Turing code for our Berne Al, although
the entity manipulating you is a sort of subprogram."
"One of them? There's more?"
"One other. But that one hasn't spoken to me in years. It
gave up, I think. I suspect that both represent the fruition of
certain capacities my mother ordered designed into the original
software, but she was an extremely secretive woman when she
felt it necessary. Here. Drink." She put a flexible plastic tube
to Molly's lips. "Water. Only a little."
"Jane, love," ъiviera asked cheerfully, from somewhere out
of sight, "are you enjoying yourself?"
"Leave us alone, Peter."
"Playing doctor...." Suddenly Molly stared into her own
face, the image suspended ten centimeters from her nose. There
were no bandages. The left implant was shattered, a long finger
of silvered plastic driven deep in a socket that was an inverted
pool of blood.
"Hideo," 3Jane said, stroking Molly's stomach, "hurt Peter
if he doesn't go away. Go and swim, Peter."
The projection vanished.
07:58:40, in the darkness of the bandaged eye.
"He said you know the code. Peter said. Wintermute needs
the code." Case was suddenly aware of the Chubb key that lay
on its nylon thong, against the inner curve of her left breast.
"Yes," 3Jane said, withdrawing her hand, "I do. I learned
it as a child. I think I learned it in a dream.... Or somewhere
in the thousand hours of my mother's diaries. But I think that
Peter has a point, in urging me not to surrender it. There would
be Turing to contend with, if I read all this correctly, and ghosts
are nothing if not capricious."
Case jacked out.
"Strange little customer, huh?" The Finn grinned at Case
from the old Sony.
Case shrugged. He saw Maelcum coming back along the
corridor with the ъemington at his side. The Zionite was smil-
ing, his head bobbing to a rhythm Case couldn't hear. A pair
of thin yellow leads ran from his ears to a side pocket in his
"Dub, mon," Maelcum said.
"You're fucking crazy," Case told him.
"Hear okay, mon. ъighteous dub."
"Hey, guys," the Finn said, "on your toes. Here comes your
transportation. I can't finesse many numbers as smooth as the
pic of 8Jean that conned your doorman, but I can get you a
ride over to 3Jane's place."
Case was pulling the adaptor from its socket when the rid-
erless service cart swiveled into sight, under the graceless con-
crete arch marking the far end of their corridor. It might have
been the one his Africans had ridden, but if it was, they were
gone now. Just behind the back of the low padded seat, its tiny
manipulators gripping the upholstery, the little Braun was
steadily winking its red LED.
"Bus to catch," Case said to Maelcum.
He'd lost his anger again. He missed it.
The little cart was crowded: Maelcum, the ъemington across
his knees, and Case, deck and construct against his chest. The
cart was operating at speeds it hadn't been designed for; it was
top heavy, cornering, and Maelcum had taken to leaning out
in the direction of the turns. This presented no problem when
the thing took lefts, because Case sat on the right, but in the
right turns the Zionite had to lean across Case and his gear,
crushing him against the seat.
He had no idea where they were. Everything was familiar,
but he couldn't be sure he'd seen any particular stretch before.
A curving hallway lined with wooden showcases displayed
collections he was certain he'd never seen: the skulls of large
birds, coins, masks of beaten silver. The service cart's six tires
were silent on the layered carpets. There was only the whine
of the electric motor and an occasional faint burst of Zion dub,
from the foam beads in Maelcum's ears, as he lunged past Case
to counter a sharp right. The deck and the construct kept press-
ing the shuriken in his jacket pocket into his hip.
"You got a watch?" he asked Maelcum.
The Zionite shook his locks. "Time be time."
"Jesus," Case said, and closed his eyes.
The Braun scuttled over mounded carpets and tapped one
of its padded claws against an oversized rectangular door of
dark battered wood. Behind them, the cart sizzled and shot
blue sparks from a louvered panel. The sparks struck the carpet
beneath the cart and Case smelled scorched wool.